|The legitimacy of an individual councilmember’s power comes directly from
the electorate, but respect and influence cannot be presumed; they have to
be earned through action. The manager’s position, however, comes from
professional qualifications to manage and provide policy guidance. In
contrast with members of the council, the local government manager and
professional staff benefit from a long-term familiarity with issues, specialization,
and technical expertise and also from an organizational structure
familiar to all.
As we know, linking politics and the work of a governing body with the
management of government involves an ongoing set of tasks and challenges.
The idea of council-manager government is that political and administrative
realms can be in partnership and not dependent on the system of
checks and balances that characterizes our state and federal governments,
where separation of legislative and executive powers is valued.
The relationship between the manager and the elected officials sets a tone
for the entire local government. Although some elected officials shy away
from acknowledging a team or partner relationship between and among
members of council and between the council and the staff, it is critical
that the professional manager prepares the council for its
In part, this takes place as the manager helps the council
build its capacity to work as a body, earning respect for
one another and in an effective partnership with staff. In
this article, we set out some of the ways the manager can
facilitate the building of council capacity.